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Friday, May 25, 2012

Prop. 29 Losing Voter Support, Though Cigarette Tax Remains Popular

Posted By on Fri, May 25, 2012 at 3:40 PM

click to enlarge "It's toasted."
  • "It's toasted."

What can you get for $42 million?

A penthouse apartment at the top of the St. Regis. Six years of Adonal Foyle. Roy Lichtenstein's peephole painting.

Also, a 14 percent drop in support for Proposition 29, which would raise the cigarette tax and fund cancer research.

In March, a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 67 percent of California voters supported Prop 29. This week, after two months of campaigning, a new PPIC poll showed that just 53 percent supported the ballot measure.

Perhaps a chunk of California voters have come to the realization that raising a cigarette pack's price by $1 to pump an annual $735 million into cancer research isn't a sensible thing to do.

Or perhaps the onslaught of Big Tobacco-funded media time has muddied the issue and changed minds using bonus-word rhetoric such as "bureaucracy," "political appointees," and "our tax dollars."

Supporters of the measure have contributed $11.1 million to the campaign in favor of Prop 29. Opponents have donated $42.7 million to the campaign against it.

The anti-29 rhetoric has been effective. How do we know this? Voters are not necessarily turning against raising the cigarette tax; voters are simply turning against Prop. 29. According to PPIC's polling, there is a disconnect between how voters feel about Prop. 29 and how they actually feel about a cigarette tax. Though 53 percent professed support for Prop. 29, 63 percent were in favor of "increasing taxes on cigarette purchases," which is the same percentage as in the March poll.

Those "No on 29" radio and TV ads, of course, aren't anything innovative, just the classic political issue persuasion attempt. The top radio one, for instance, mentions about how we don't need another Big Government Tax-Hike, don't need more money wasted on inefficient Government Bureaucracy. It does not mention a single word about cigarettes.

One of the TV ads features a white-coated woman-- Dr. La Donna Porter, M.D. -- who says that she was in favor of Prop. 29 (just like you!), until she learned that "not one penny" goes toward cancer treatment. "Instead it creates a huge new research bureaucracy."

Supporters of the proposal note that the money is going to research and not treatment because the cure for cancer has not been found.

The top of the donor list for Prop. 29 include the American Cancer Foundation ($7.4 million), the Lance Armstrong Foundation ($1.5 million), the American Heart Association ($546,000), and billionaire New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($500,000), whose campaign against cigarettes has helped bring his city the strictest smoking regulations and highest tobacco taxes in the country (it'll cost you $15 for a pack in Manhattan).

The top of the other donor list reals like a Potential Clients to Target board at Sterling, Cooper, Draper, Price: Altria/Philip Morris ($24 million), R.J. Reynolds ($11 million), Smokeless Tobacco ($2.6 million), Reynolds-division American Snuff Company ($1.75 million), Reynolds-division Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Company ($1.1 million), and the California Republican Party ($1.1 million).

Prop. 29 will be on the presidential primary ballot on June 5.

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Albert Samaha

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